Sunday, March 27, 2011

Grandma's handkerchiefs find a new use

This is a handkerchief holder that my grandma sent me years ago.  Filled with beautiful and delicate handkerchiefs.  The holder itself is stunning.  Embroidery on silk;  ivory on ivory -- one of my favorite combinations.  I've had these for years and finally decided to do something substantial.  A scarf!

After carefully washing and ironing 14 of the handkerchiefs, I laid them out in two long rows and worked the arrangement until each row was pretty much the same length.  I decided not to sweat about whether the edges matched up.  I only wanted the ends to be the same.  There's a handkerchief with a very delicate "S" embroidered on it.  I knew that one needed to be on one of the ends.  My grandma's name was Sadie and I think that handkerchief was her very own.

I sewed the handkerchiefs together using a very basic zig zag.  I had a few tension issues at first but got it together and the sewing went very quickly.  My machine is used to slogging through recycled wool sweaters and cashmere.  This stuff was far too delicate!

The final result is a light and airy, beautiful spring scarf.  I can't wait for the weather to warm up just a touch so I can trade my cashmere scarf for this one.  Today it never crossed the 30 degree line so it may be a week or two before I can wear it.

In the meantime, my next project is looming.  Literally.  I have a theory that I can weave long strips of cashmere and make some fabulous scarves for next winter.  I found a great tutorial here:
and have already bought and marked the wood for cutting.  I'm going to try it out first on some old t-shirts rather than risk cutting up the cashmere without a plan.  Can't wait.

What wintery projects are you hatching this spring?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Valence for my office -- sewing group project

It all starts with Grandma's beads.  My grandma was precious to me.  She died 2 years ago at age 103 so I was fortunate to have had plenty of adulthood to grow my appreciation for her.  She taught me to knit;  this passion of mine that has never ceased to provide interest and challenge even after 25 years.  She was a fabulous cook, gardener, craftswoman, etc.  She took me to my first Broadway show (A Chorus Line in its original run) and went with me to look at wedding reception spots since my wedding was in her town and my mom lived across the country.  I miss her every day.  But, I have some things that remind me.  Like her beads.

These are true cinnabar beads.  Thick with color and beautifully carved.  I'm sure they came from Asian during one of her many travels with my Grandfather in his consulting days.  This red is my favorite shade.  When Grandma gave me a strand of these beads, I was thrilled.  But, I don't wear necklaces too much so I re-strung some of the beads into a bracelet.  The others were left in the drawer for several years.  Then, I made them the centerpiece of one of my sewing group projects.  For those new to my blog, my sewing group is an eclectic mix of craftswomen from every corner of the fiber world:  embroidery, sewing, quilting, knitting, felting, etc.  We do it all.  We've been together for years and work on projects for each other through the year. 

This project is from about 3 years ago. I wanted to make a mantle scarf for the fireplace in our living room. We have some early American stenciling on the walls in there. I wanted the feel of the stenciling (primitive, botanical, folk art) and wanted at least one of these beads included in the design. I received 6 fabulous squares. That year we only had 7 of us in the group and I never did one of these for myself. The background is ivory silk. Once they were all done, I carefully packed them away until I had a chance to use them. 
Life ensued.  Now the living room has become my husband's study and, frankly, he has little or no appreciation for my sewing group.  He tolerates it and often asks, "What on earth are you making now?" but doesn't really get it.  So, why waste this fabulous workmanship on him?!  I have a new desk in my "study" which is just a pass-through room just off the kitchen.  I took down the homespun plaid curtains because I don't find them very interesting.  But, what to do for a window treatment?!  Aha!!  The squares!!  A valence would be the perfect thing!

Now they grace this window where I can look out on the backyard while I type blog posts.  On the sill is my little heart collection.  Not a passion, just something I pick up when I find one I like.  Or, if I'm lucky, my boys make one for me.

The valence is actually a Rumpelstiltskin project, too!  I knew I wanted red for the borders of the valence and was prepared to go to the fabric store to buy some.  But, I remembered my vegetables that the sewing group had done years earlier.  I used a fab red silk for some of those.  Dig, dig, dig in the bin in the cedar closet and Voila!  Enough silk for the entire valence.  I had lining, matching thread, everything!  I didn't spend a dime.

My sewing group is probably my single favorite activity.  I love the creative challenge.  I love having a smallish project on which to try new techniques.  I especially love the Show & Tell at the beginning of our get-togethers where we share our latest creations, either for the group or for personal use.  Many of these women are in no other part of my life -- I only see them at sewing.  But, I look forward to our monthly gatherings in a way that is hard to explain.